'Healing Destination' - a tribute to Cape Town City, the mother city with her mountain, sea and port.
A musical role call of alumni, centered around the delightfully romantic composer lauriet of the city, Mac Mckenzie. This is the re-emergence of goema, the unique music of Cape Town City. Mac Mckenzie, son of the great banjo player and carnival leader Mr Mac, rose as if a phoenix proclaiming the re-emergence of the underground into the mainstream. 'Ex gangster makes good through music,' wrote Iain in the Cape Times, James at the Big Issue called it 'Bargain Box erotica', and 'penthouse playboy's sound is smooth suggested Jayne in the Times with delight. Within a moment the entire city of Cape Town was abuzz with this sound of goema and the brilliant humour of toothless Mac.
Mac was at the core of a musical revolution like Jobim in Brazil or the tango of Argentina. 'Hier kom die goemerati,' proclaimed Theuniss in Rapport. Goema was musical but it was political too...like the times, mid fifties, when Mac's dad coached the Cornwalls carnival troupe and in two years turned them around from being hopeless hobos and hookers to a tight musical unit. He hired a Fred Aistaire fellow with the fleetest moves in town to lead the troupe, enlisted rows of dancing girls and men with trumpets and piled them onto the back of a large van with the band - double bass, piano, drums and Mr. Mac in the middle with his banjo. Hundreds of brightly dressed carnivaliers would rush the streets dancing in its wake.
They won the annual competition of that year and some to come. Gympie Street became the Moulin Rouge of Cape Town, a flamboyant, indulgent entertainment strip, which shone with the confidence of knowing its carnival team was the champion. Gympie Street with its extravagant goema was transformed into the sort of stylish gangland you see in the movies. And the carnival was at the centre of it - a tremendous sport, with a wealthy and influential hierarchy and massive support.
...There was a time in the late 80's when Mac junior brought goema back into vogue with his powerful pop quartet The Genuines. Alongside Hilton Schilder, Gerard O`Brien and a young Ian Herman, these gents were very excited and popular. After a few albums and some success the band disbanded in Amsterdam when Mac's van fell into the canal. Wherever they went these guys were the party. And they ran it dry.We're twenty-five years from the Genuines and fifty years from the Cornwalls. The Goema has always been there. We ignore the silences and respect the goema's resting for when it re-emerges it is beautiful.
Mac hadn't played much in the last ten years since the Genuines but in the Winter of 2002 things started to change. Vince Colbe took Mac to the District Six Museum and settled him amongst his peers: Hilton Schilder and Alex Van Heerden. Hilton is the son of Tony, the original Mr Cool in the lounge. Alex is a tall, slim accordion and trumpet player with the punctuality of Piazzola. When he left home for Cape Town by bus ten years ago he made it as far as Bridgetown, Mac Mckenzie and Hilton Schilder and that's where he settled.
Things went well but took on a new dimension when Mac Mckenzie and his all star band - the Goema Captains of Cape Town, took the stage. The musicians had interpreted the goema exactly as it was meant to sound. Sultry, sexy, stealthy, emotion-packed.
The Goema Captains of Cape Town is a Cape Town band. But beneath the obvious lies the significant. The Goema Captains are the Cape Town band. Never before has a band in Cape Town so widley taken in the fabric of Cape Town culture, lifestyle and fantasy.
Mac's legacy is Christmas Choirs, Malay Choirs, Coon troops and music on every corner. Hilton Schilder is from Grassy Park on the Cape Flats, he's a pianist from a musical dynasty - the biggest musical family in the world. He's Mr Cool in the lounge, playing the piano better than anybody in the whole wide world.
Alex Van Heerden is the boy in the bubble from the small Afrikaans republic of Tulbagh who left his home with no direction - only purpose. Of course his end point is sleeping on the floor of Macs home, performing with the last breaths of the Genuines and imbibing the intoxicating history of Cape Town. Alex is Alex in Wonderland, dancing the streets in his leather winkelpickers, caressing the movement of the sea with his accordion. He follows his path with diligence and delight, embroiled in a spontaneous comedy.
From Delft, one of the greatest gangster zones in the Cape, comes double bass player Riedwaan Bollie. He's been playing since he was 10 and his brilliance lies in playing the rhythm of life. It's his blood.
From Kewton, just below Bridgetown comes the coach, banjo and mandolin player Kaatjie Davids, from Port Elizabeth comes drummer Clement Benny, from Woodstock there's trombonist Jannie van Tonder and from Elsies River there's the Cape Doctor, Robbie Jansen. Robbie is the great lion. He plays the saxophone as if he had consumed all the pain of a lifetimes generations and is breathing it out with the furious roar of yang and a loving ying whisper.
"From a star to a cluster to a universe."
Cape Town, Mother City, with a combination of beauty and location it attracted many different people to its picturesque shores. Christopher Mra Ngcukana, the Columbus of South African Jazz was an early pioneer of education and collaboration in the 40s. By the 50s Cape Town was already growing cosmopolitan and international through the port. The talented pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim, was called Dollar , as he carried a Dollar to buy the latest jazz records from the visiting American sailors at the port. During the 60s, jazz gatherings at Green Point's Art Centre lead to the formation of saxophonist Winston “raging bull” Mankunku Ngozi seminal sound and the founding of The Jazz Workshop by vibes and piano player Merton Barrow and his wife Cynthia. This diligent school has remained the cornerstone for nurturing Cape Town jazz and is jokingly called the 'Hogwarts of Cape Town – place where magic happens.” University of Cape Town (UCT) jazz department was founded in 1989 by Mike Campbell after graduating with a jazz degree from North Texas State. It has spawned a host of accomplished players, who with dedication and good fortune have risen to fame with a singular approach,” explained Campbell. The political isolation of South Africa during the 70s and 80s resulted in a tremendous hunger to see “international musicians perform in a festival atmosphere that brings people of all persuasions together,” as Cape Town International Jazz Festival (CTIJF) co- founder, photographer Rashid Lombard put it. The annual CTIJF was founded in 2000 and has grown ten-fold since. The event impacts R500 Million on the creative economy and contributes extensively to jazz education, training, skills and development across the sector. “Every year people depend on us for their livelihood. We have a moral obligation to maintain this event, if not expand,” explained festival Director Billy Domingo. There are inner city and suburban venues catering for African and collaborative jazz. The music promotion initiative “ Jazz in the Native Yards” founded by Koko Nkalashe hosts brings jazz music to the back-yards, cultural centres and informal spaces in the townships where people gather. These events offer the full African jazz experience of community, food and freedom.
“If it's the end of the world,play goema.”
Goema Captains of Cape Town was a self-styled orchestral jazz band that wasinclusive, collaborative and enjoyable. Goema Captains were always calling musicians toward it. The action of creating a band is constant. It requires constant rehearsing, performing, collaborating, and doing so until the sound absolutely and completely embodies the intention of the musical cast. From their inauguration at the wondergigs, the Goema Captains did a further thirty collaborative performances in and around Cape Town including two days in the studio. This resulted in their only album, which Mac himself described as 'a befokk-da album.' Musicians featured ... Guitar: Mac Mckenzie Piano Hilton Schilder Trumpet and accordion Alex Van Heerden Vocals Ernie Deane, Zolani Mahola Saxophone Robbie Jansen, Mark Fransman Violin Mike Rennie Drums Clement Bennie, Kurt Davids Bass Eddie Jooste, Basil Moses, Riedwaan Bolie Banjo Kaatjie Davids Choir New Orleans Choir Trombone Jannie Van Tonder Steel Drums Liz Broukhart Producer Struan Douglas ...
The Goema Captains represented a core team, the head of an arrow. The core team represented the philosophy of immaculate expansion whereby a star was to become a cluster and then to become a universe; whereby a spark of inspiration was to ignite an entire scene and pick it up from the bootlaces. Mac McKenzie is a fantastic bandleader and the Goema Captains of Cape Town formed around him and his lifelong collaboration with Hilton Schilder and Alex Van Heerden. Mac together with a team of brilliant Cape musicians created the 'Goema captains of Cape Town.' We began an anthemic journey into the heart of the rainbow nation as witnessed from the Cape of storms, or Tavern of the Seven Seas as this gorgeous land was once known. Mac had ridden the tragic hustle of fame through incredible ups and downs. When I met Mac he had been cash strapped for years. But reputations change as do people. We dropped an album, the Goema Captains of Cape Town and Macs return to the maestro status began in earnest. "Change is slow but change is here."
From their inauguration at the wondergigs, the Goema Captains did a further thirty collaborative performances in and around Cape Town including two days in the studio. This resulted in their only album, which Mac himself described as ‘a befokk-da album.' Ernestine Deane said after recording with the band, “These are such beautiful songs.” We hear the mist of Cape Town on 'Alibama.' We float amongst the whimsical spirit of togetherness on ‘Rosa' and take inspiration of the late summer nights on 'Goema Goema'. After three or four years of constant rehearsing, performing, rehearsing, performing, collaborating, absolutely and completely embodied the Cape Town sound. We hear the mist on Alibama and the wind on Too Wisdom . We float amongst the whimsical spirit of togetherness on Rosa and take inspiration of the late summer nights on Goema Goema. I recall Ernestine Deane, saying "these are such beautiful songs," after the recording sessions of 'healing destination' and 'too wisdom'. I recall the grand finale at the Cape Town stage of democracy, company gardens. That very gig, Craig Parks called me on the telephone to say Robbie Jansen needed to perform with the goema captains that afternoon. In fact it was an order. I thought Robbie was suffering from an infection. Alas he blew like the Cape Doctor of ever. (I hear with the approaching desert from the East, the Cape Doctor can change direction to become a Black Doctor!) What was that choir, dressed in panama hats with a slight of orange in the band? There was a tradition of Cape Malay expressed with such vibrance. All of the choir were heard, the soft hearts of the kind youths and the 'salt of the earth' experience of the heavy weights. This was our proudest moment in recording (even though the recording was straight up onto mini disk). When you changed the words of 'Daar kom die alibama,' to say 'daar gaan die alibama,' the foulest revolutionary injectives were most clearly expressed. Drunks who had not risen from the gutter in many moons were suddenly dancing as if Sufi's! . Our final show was March 16th 2004 and I saw rich and poor dancing together with the intensity of lovers. . The love was bright, so bright, too bright for just at that time, but perfect for now. You can imagine. This was our farewell gig. I left Cape Town after this show and the Goema Captains never played together again like this